• 1961 Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spider by Scaglietti

Few postwar classic cars can match the insanely high prices commanded by the Ferrari 250 in its various forms. And of the forms that the 250 took, it is generally the 250 GTO and 250 GT SWB California Spider that fetch the very highest prices. These are prized because of their rarity, and with RM Auction set to auction off a 250 GT SWB California Spider soon, it has caught the attention of collectors everywhere. Not only were there just 56 units of the Spider produced, but only 16 of these units were built with open headlights, this 1961 model being one of those 16. RM auctions is therefore expecting the car to go for 11-13 million euros.

The California Spider was built essentially at the request of a couple of American Ferrari distributors. It is based on the 250 GT Berlinetta Tour de France, but with a convertible top for increased enjoyment of the lovely California weather. Most of these cars were of course sent to the U.S., but a handful stayed in Europe, of which this is one. It was bought by its current owner in 2007, and was sent to Ferrari Classiche shortly thereafter for restoration. This was completed in 2010, and you can see, it is absolutely gorgeous.

Continue reading to learn more about the 1961 Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spider by Scaglietti.

  • 1961 Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spider by Scaglietti
  • Year:
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
  • Transmission:
    four-speed manual
  • Horsepower @ RPM:
  • Displacement:
    2953 L
  • 0-60 time:
    6.5 sec.
  • Top Speed:
    145 mph
  • Price:
    € 11000000
  • Price:
  • car segment:
  • body style:


1961 Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spider by Scaglietti Exterior
- image 628484

The Spider has its roots in the 250 GT Berlinetta Tour de France of 1956. In 1957, two different convertible versions of the car were made, the 250 GT Cabriolet Pininfarina, with bodywork by Pininfarina (obviously), and the America-bound 250 GT California Spider, with bodywork by Scaglietti. Both of these were superseded in 1960, when Ferrari decided to go with a shorter wheelbase for improved handling. There are some variations in the bodywork between the versions of the car, especially given that the SWB versions were a full 8 inches shorter than the original, but all told, a 250 GT is always pretty recognizable as a 250 GT.

Among the differences are the pronounced “hips” in the bodywork just behind the rear doors. These are not unique to California models, or even to the convertibles, but it is something which not every 250 had, and those that have them are more valuable. The bodywork of the California models is about as curvacious as 250s get, yet it manages to hold on to the elegant simplicity that makes the whole line still so desirable.

Exterior Dimensions

Wheelbase 2,400 MM (94.5 Inches)
Length 4,200 MM (165.4 Inches)
Width 1720 MM (67.7 Inches)
Height 1370 MM (53.9 Inches)


1961 Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spider by Scaglietti Interior
- image 628487

In 1961, Ferrari was still mainly concerned with building race cars. Road-going cars were built almost as an afterthought, and were always based on platforms designed chiefly for racing. Cabin accessories are essentially nonexistent, and you might have noticed from the pictures that it lacks even a radio. But that’s fine, this was a car that was meant to be driven, and the sound of the engine was all the music you would ever need. There is an ashtray though, because we’re talking about 1961 in Italy. And though there might not have been a lot of interior options, the finest materials were used, from the copious amounts of leather upholstery to the big wooden steering wheel.


1961 Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spider by Scaglietti
- image 628504

Ferrari used some variation or another of the same 12-cylinder engine from 1947 all the way up until 1995, and the 250s all had them as well. This was the Colombo V-12, and at the time of the 250, Ferrari differentiated models by unitary, rather than total engine displacement. This meant that the 250, rather confusingly, actually had a 3.0-liter engine, with 250 cc per cylinder, times 12 cylinders. Early road-going versions of the 250 produced 217 horsepower, but along with the shortened wheelbase, 1960 also saw improvements to the engine that resulted in more power. The improvements consisted largely of redesigned heads and larger valves, which pushed output up to 280 horsepower.


1961 Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spider by Scaglietti Exterior
- image 628489

RM Auctions has estimated that the car will likely go for anywhere from 11 million to 13 million euros ($12 million-$14 million). It sounds like a lot of money, but it’s actually probably a fairly conservative estimate, given that an unrestored barn find 250 GT SWB California Spider just recently went for $18.5 million at auction. But as with anything this rare and valuable, it is a very difficult thing to predict.


Aston Martin DB4

1961 Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spider by Scaglietti
- image 628618

Though not as rare as the 250 GT SWB California Spider, the DB4 is very much the same kind of thing: a low-volume European Grand Touring machine. And The DB4 does date back to a time in the company’s history before the sales explosion that would result from the DB5’s appearance in the movie Goldfinger. They aren’t cheap, but because they aren’t as rare, you can have one for generally between half a million and one million USD, depending on condition and which variation of the car you’ve got your heart set on. Sporting 240 horsepower, the DB4 isn’t quite as powerful as the Ferrari, but the important thing is that you’ll look at least as cool driving it.

Maserati 5000 GT

1961 Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spider by Scaglietti
- image 628619

Note: Maserati 5000 GT by Allemano pictured.
Though this is very much open to debate, the 5000 GT is considered by some to be the greatest Maserati of all time. Based on the 3500 GT, but with a 5-liter, 340-horsepower V8 in place of the inline six, only 34 units of this car were ever produced. Not only that, but there is a fair amount of variation in the bodywork from one unit to the next, as eight different coachbuilders produced bodies for various clients, many of whom were royalty. It is therefore literally a car fit for a king, and RM Auctions happens have one of these going up for auction soon as well. That particular car was owned by King Saud bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, and is expected to go for $2.2-$2.9 million.


1961 Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spider by Scaglietti Exterior
- image 628511

This is one of the most valuable classics of all time, lovingly restored by the very company that made it in the first place. It has an elegance to its design that we will never see again, thanks to safety regulations and wind-tunnel testing. It was made to be enjoyed, and it has no other purpose but that. It is a beautiful but horrifyingly expensive thing.

  • Leave it
    • * absurdly high price even compared to similar cars from the same era
    • * the Spider can’t quite match the handling of the hardtop
    • * you’d be too scared to ever take it out of the garage

Source: RM Auctions

Jacob Joseph
Jacob Joseph
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